The Housemaid | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Housemaid 

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The Housemaid

Based on a true story, this wildly expressive 1960 film begins a welcome series of six rarely seen works by the extravagant and eccentric Korean director Kim Ki-young. The wife of a music teacher, coveting a larger home, begins to work long hours, and the couple hires a housemaid; the music teacher's one-night stand with the maid disrupts his marriage and leads to ever-more-convoluted plot twists. A bottle of rat poison reappears like a horror-movie zombie that refuses to die--characters threaten to use it, pretend to use it, and finally actually use it. The film is pitched at a consistent level of hysteria: tight black-and-white images seem ready to explode while camera movements destabilize our sense of space, and the tension between the confined spaces and the stylized imagery and action provides a powerful metaphor for social disintegration. Critics have noted that Kim's films reflect a rapidly urbanized and industrialized Korea whose traditional patriarchy is collapsing; the critique of materialism embedded in the film's centrifugal delirium testifies to the richness of Kim's cinema. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, May 23, 8:15, 312-443-3737. -- Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.


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